Deployment ceremonies put on hold
March 14, 2003
BAUMHOLDER, Germany — While the 1st Armored Division got orders to deploy last week, it may not be going anywhere for a while.
Deployment ceremonies scheduled for Wednesday at Baumholder were canceled earlier in the week, as were other ceremonies around the widely dispersed division.
Master Sgt. David Melancon, a 1st AD spokesman, alerted Stars and Stripes by e-mail of the ceremony cancellations, but 1st AD public affairs officers did not return repeated phone calls for additional information.
What’s slowing down the heavy armor division is lack of transportation for the 1st AD’s approximately 13,000 soldiers and hundreds of millions of tons of Abrams M1A1 tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, helicopters and related materials, a 1st Armored Division source confirmed.
The 1st AD, headquartered in Wiesbaden, has brigades in several locations including Baumholder, Freidberg, Hanau, Giessen and Fort Riley, Kan.
The bottom line: It takes incredible logistical coordination to move the U.S. Army, said Doug Anderson, deputy director of supply for Military Traffic Management Command in Fort Eustis, Va.
“You can’t flow everyone into the same place at the same time,” Anderson said. “We have units queuing up … and that all has to be sequenced.
“Our job is moving all units to where they need to be moved, when they need to be moved.”
Where the 1st AD is headed has not been made public, but most experts point toward the Middle East.
Currently, the United States has roughly 220,000 soldiers assigned to Central Command in five nations on Iraq’s southern flank including Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
MTMC is part of the U.S. Transportation Command, which is responsible for all military surface ship transportation. MTMC has operations at about 22 ports, including some in the Middle East, and controls about 10,400 shipping containers worldwide.
Initial war plans with Iraq called for 62,000 Americans to deploy to Turkey for a northern front against Iraq. The Turkish parliament voted down that plan March 1 by not allowing the troops to set foot in Turkey. Ships filled with materials are still waiting off shore as U.S. policy-makers wait for the new Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to call for another vote.
Even with a Turkish approval, some said finding all the ships to move things is difficult.
In addition, the Department of Defense added more ships, both through purchases and leases.
The mass mobilization has used up all commercial shipping capacity, said Tim Colton, president of Maritime Business Strategies LLC, a Biloxi, Miss.-based shipping firm.
The type of ship strong enough and large enough to haul tanks and other heavy equipment is called a “ro-ro,” short for roll-on/roll-off, Colton said in an online interview. “This type of ship has very limited commercial use, so there aren’t many of them out there. I count only about 50 in total, only 10 of which are new since the Gulf War,” Colton wrote.
The Navy is trying to overcome the shortage of “ro-ros” in the international commercial fleet by recently building 15 new ones and buying used ships for the Ready Reserve Force “whenever it can,” he said.